March 08, 2006

CARING FOR COMMUNITY

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered.Moral: When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be.-Robert Fulghum (1937- ) American writerFebruary is a month associated primarily with Valentines Day--a time when many of us share love, friendship and encouragement with family and friends. It is a time when caring for others is at the forefront of our thoughts and a good opportunity to reflect on what that means in our daily lives, beyond the flowers, chocolate or dinners associated with February 14. Sometimes, watching the nightly news or reading the paper can leave one feeling a little hopeless about the state of our world. Earlier this month, I led a news conference kicking off National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week. A poignant personal story was told by a young woman who was the victim of horrific teen dating violence. And what struck me most about her experience was the fact that no one would listen to her. Not her friends or the adult authority figures in her school or in law enforcement. Not even those who saw her boyfriend lift her off the floor of the school hallway by her throat. I hear and read about methamphetamine use in Idaho, and the growing number of teenagers who are making it their drug of choiceâ??in Idaho high schools. With something that can only be described as utter horror and despair, I watched and heard the terrible story of the Groene family and children unfold in North Idaho last summer. In communities across Idaho, wives, husbands and children are prisoners in their own homes--what is supposed to be a place of refuge represents only pain and fear. With these things happening every day in every community, we need February, and we need it more than once a year. February is about, very simply, tending the grass. Idahoans know all too well what happens when there isnâ??t enough water--fires start, plants wither, animals suffer. The same goes for relationships and community. Tending the grass means listening to a cry for help hiding behind an off-hand remark in an otherwise light-hearted conversation. Tending the grass means taking the time to befriend someone or do a favor for a stranger. Tending the grass can even mean tending your own yardâ??spending meaningful time with your family and friends. Tending your yard can also involve the very difficult step of finding help for yourself. February is also great time to thank the landscapers who dig up the weeds of fear, injury and abuse in our communities and keep homes and schools fertile ground for healthy thriving relationships. These are the men and women who are on the other end of the domestic violence hotline. These are the law enforcement officers who keep streets safe for our children. These are teachers who see the unmistakable signs of child abuseâ??and report it. These are friends or family members who take the time to ask, â??How are you really doing?â??â??and perhaps more important, listen to the answer. As spring approaches and thoughts turn to gardens and new life, itâ??s important to remember to encourage and grow positive relationships in our homes and our communities. Hope, like spring, eagerly awaits a good gardener.WORD COUNT: 569